Thursday, April 19, 2012

Support UVP at the Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG Event on May 2nd

The Uganda Village Project has made great strides over the last year. We conducted 5 hygiene and sanitation campaigns, constructing 881 tippy taps to improve handwashing coverage and building 120 new latrines. In a partnership with St. Mary's, we successfully provided HIV counselling and testing for over 1,400 people across 13 villages. We sold 1800 long lasting insecticide treated nets to help prevent malaria and screened over 500 villagers for eye treatment and surgery. Since 2007, UVP has faciliated 180 fistula repairs. We would like to thank the support of our many donors and the hours of our volunteers and staff that helped us get to where we are today.

And to help celebrate our accomplishments, we would like to invite you take part in the Seattle Foundation's annual GiveBIG charitable giving event.

What is GiveBIG?

GiveBIG is a one-day challenge that encourages Seattle residents to give locally by increasing the size of financial contributions made to non-profit organizations.

By donating to the Uganda Village Project on May 2nd, between 12:00am and 11:59pm (Pacific time), UVP will acquire a portion of matching funds, which comes from a "stretch pool" dependent of how many total donations are raised on the GiveBIG day.

What can you do?

You can help support UVP's programs by making a donation to the UVP profile on the Seattle Foundation's website on May 2nd. Save the link and save the date on your calendar!

Also add yourself on our Facebook Event:

Visit our website to learn more about UVP:

Best regards,

Uganda Village Project

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alumni Profile: Kate Cerwensky, Program Associate at the Boston University PMTCT Integration Program and former UVPer

Kate Cerwensky is a 27-year-old public health professional and UVP alumna. She currently lives and works in Zambia for the Boston University PMTCT Integration Program and the Zambia Center for Applied Health and Research and Development. She travels on the side as much as she can.

Uganda Village Project (UVP): Tell us about your involvement with the Uganda Village Project – when were you involve and in what capacity?

Kate Cerwensky (KC): I served as the Safe Water and Sanitation Project Coordinator for UVP during the summer of 2008. We were based in rural Kalalu Parish in Iganga. My team of five was tasked to promote WaterGuard, a water-chlorination product developed by the CDC. We also coordinated two side projects: 1) establish a relationship between the community and partner organizations to build five shallow wells within our parish, and 2) mobilize the community for mass distribution of insecticide treated nets.

From 2008-2009 I served as UVP's publicity chair on the executive board. I helped to create promotional materials, including orientation and project area manuals, as well as pursued and established relationships with external partners.

UVP: What was your biggest challenge working in Iganga? How did you deal with it?

KC: The biggest challenge, but the most fun as it turned out, was learning how to live like your rural community. My team had the most rural placement, and therefore we did not have electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, washing machines, air conditioning, etc. It was quite the learning experience, and extremely humbling. We dealt with it as a team - took turns fetching water from the borehole, handwashing our own clothes, etc. Most of all we learned from the community, which helped gain their trust.

UVP: What is your favorite memory about your time in Uganda?

KC: Too many. It could have been coming home after a really hard day in the field to no fewer than 30 children between the ages of few months and 10 years waiting for us in our front yard excitedly. It could have been the shallow well commissioning ceremony (the "ribbon cutting" celebration) after the construction of one of the community wells, with all of the singing and dancing. It could have been the morning I left my village - I was so sad to leave, and one by one my community members gave me a last token of appreciation - an orange, an egg, maize, sugarcane, a live chicken... etc. My bags were already bursting and then I had to find places for 40 random food items, which was incredibly touching. Or maybe it was white water rafting the Nile with the other volunteers :-)

UVP: How has UVP shaped your career today and what you aspire to do in the future?

KC: UVP solidified my desire to get my Masters in Public Health (International Health and Epidemiology). I always knew I was keen for international work, but wasn't sure exactly what that was until my time in Uganda. Since Uganda, I have worked in rural Kenya, and now have been living in urban Zambia, providing technical support and program implementation and evaluation services. I am extremely happy with where I am now, and can see myself staying in Zambia for years to come, growing with my current organization.

UVP: Tell us more about your work - what are you working on and who are you working with?

KC: I currently live in Lusaka, Zambia, and have been working for Boston University's Center for Global Health and Development's local affiliate - the Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development (ZCAHRD) - since January 2011. The Boston University Center for Global Health and Development (CGHD, previously CIHD) has been engaged by the U.S. CDC Global AIDS Program/Zambia to provide technical, logistical and limited financial support for the provision of prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) services to eight District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) in Southern Province, Zambia, through the Boston University PMTCT Integration Program (BUPIP).

UVP: What are the goals of the Boston University PMTCT Integration Program?

KC: BUPIP has two interrelated, overall goals, 1) to make prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) services accessible and affordable to women in 80% of the urban and rural areas of the covered districts in Southern Province; and 2) to enable the rapid scale-up of early infant diagnosis (EID) services in the same areas (MOH 2010 testing target for exposed infants was 80%). These goals are being accomplished by continuing our support of the Government of Zambia (GoZ) (Southern Province) in scaling up quality PMTCT services within maternal and child health programs in accordance with the national PMTCT and EID Strategic Objectives.

Secondary essential goals are 1) to provide quality palliative care to HIV-affected children; 2) to implement innovative approaches to reach hard-to-access rural populations through the use of community workers (Trained Traditional Birth Attendants (tTBAs), Community Health Workers (CHWs), and PMTCT Lay Counselors); and 3) to develop effective community networks for increasing awareness and program participation.

UVP: What has your role been at the organization?

Personally, I am a Program Associate for the greater BUPIP, but within the organization sector, I serve as Program Coordinator for our Antiretroviral Therapy in Antenatal Care (ART/ANC) Program Evaluation.

Within six pilot sites in Southern Province, we are working with the District Medical Officers and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nurse in-charges and staff to provide ART in the MCH wards for HIV-positive pregnant mothers during their antenatal care and throughout the infant's period of breastfeeding (up to 18 months). By providing ART services in the MCH wards, rather than referring these pregnant women to separate ART wards on the premises or to even farther ART facilities, there is a more streamlined service. Additionally we are assigning each HIV-positive pregnant mother presenting at first ANC booking their own Lay Counselor (volunteer community health worker, trained in ART adherence, Adult and Pediatric ART, and Opportunistic Infections) to follow up with the mother-infant pair to provide ART adherence counseling and PMTCT support, as well as remind them of existing appointments to help decrease lost to follow up.

Lastly, my team is attempting to introduce new point-of-care testing technology into Zambia to be used within MCH in obtaining CD4 counts and creatinine levels. It is hoped this will create same day ART initiation as the HIV diagnosis (rather than the current 3 week timespan). In short, the pilot's primary objectives are: 1) Increase the amount of HIV+ pregnant women initiating ART, 2) Decrease the time it takes from HIV diagnosis to ART initiation for pregnant women, 3) Improve adherence for daily ARVs for HIV-exposed, breastfeeding infants, and 4) Increase adherence to MCH and EID services for the mother-infant pairs.

UVP: That is great and so exciting. Knowing what you now know from your experiences in both Uganda and Zambia, what advice do you have for future interns/volunteers? What was one thing you wish you knew before volunteering in Iganga?

KC: I would suggest going into it with an open mind - not a top-down imposing mind. Take the time to slow down your own lifestyle to foster relationships with the community. Remember patience and flexibility is key.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alumni Profile: Lindsay Cope, Nuru International & Former UVP Intern

Lindsay Cope interned with UVP in Butongole during the first year of the Healthy Villages Program in summer 2009. She currently is the Healthcare Program Manager for Nuru International. She has a Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a BA in Psychology and Health Sciences from Boston College.

Uganda Village Project (UVP): Tell us a little about yourself – where do you work and what are you working on?

Lindsay Cope (LC): I am currently a Healthcare Program Manager for Nuru International, an organization that works to find community-based solutions to address extreme poverty. We use a community health worker model to prevent under-5 mortality, and operate within the realm of a holistic approach alongside our agriculture, microfinance, wat/san and education programs. I’m not sure how my childhood in Northern California fostered such a passion for Africa, but around the age of 7 I vowed that I would split time between both regions. Though I can’t claim that my every move on a varied path led me to achieve that seemingly whimsical goal—I can say I am thrilled to say I cultivated a more developed relationship with the place I found meaning at such a young age. UVP was definitely part of that process.

I was fortunate to attend Saint Ignatius High School and Boston College, which both put a huge emphasis on service and social responsibility. My parents also pushed me to value that same view, and supported my international exploration. At BC I studied psychology and health science, and after graduation I traveled, then began work for Micato Safaris, where I felt I could find a balance between an upbringing in the hospitality industry and my interests in health issues in Africa, for which they had a dedicated non-profit arm. Thanks to a great experience there I realized I wanted to be more intricately involved in international health, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. After Micato I earned my MPH at Johns Hopkins. A few days after graduation I hit the road for Uganda.

UVP: How was your experience working with Uganda Village Project?

LC: Working with UVP was the perfect opportunity to use the skills cultivated in during my MPH program in a live setting. It was the first year of the Healthy Villages Initiative, and our team was tasked with conducting a rapid needs assessment and create community and school-based participatory trainings on HIV, waterborne disease and malaria prevention. We also launched the first government recognized Village Health Team in the Iganga district. We partnered with PACE and the Red Cross to get this unit up and running, and stocked with commodities.

UVP: What was your biggest challenge working in Iganga? How did you deal with it?

LC: The list is long, and ranges from purposeful mistranslation to a bat infestation, but I think it is the constant, small challenges you see on a day to day basis which makes you feel like for every two steps forward there is a step and a half back. As long as you set manageable goals and remain positive, but realistic, you learn go get through the inevitable frustrations. It definitely makes you well-rounded personally and professionally, and gives you the ability to be a confident problem solver in a multitude of situation.

UVP: What is your favorite memory about your time in Uganda?

LC: There are so many stand out memories from my time with UVP including my introduction to maize, Sipi falls, having the opportunity to answer looming questions and dispel myths about HIV for a hall full of teenagers, and of course the team, but my memory of a young girl, Fatu will be with me forever. Fatu was about 3 years old, and she was extremely clever and engaging. For me she represented so many of the young kids who have the potential to thrive if only they had access to necessary tools to foster healthy growth, education and personal development. She is an inspiration for me to continue working in this sector. I still think of her often. Can someone please check on her for me?

UVP: What advice do you have for future interns?

LC: Know what you’re getting into and embrace it. You will face several challenges during your internship—it’s tough work, that’s why you’re doing it. But no matter what you encounter it will be a rewarding and educational experience for you and the community you’re working with.

Also, recognize that you can’t do it all. It’s a short period of time. Set your mind to do something that you can really dig into and that will be sustainable after you leave.

UVP: How has UVP shaped your career today and what you aspire to do in the future?

LC: Actually living in a community, in exactly the same way all the community members do, was an invaluable experience. There are very limited opportunities to do this. Most NGO workers live on compounds with amenities such as running water, flush toilets, electricity, etc. When I lived in Butongole we were able to experience life the way the community we work with does. We learned about the wonderful emphasis put on familial and neighbor relationships, the value of the radio and how to be resourceful.

We also immediately learned why simple tasks like washing your hands can be extremely difficult and often a missed step. We learned how long it takes to get water, how much time and resources it takes to boil it, and how heavy a 20lt jerry can is. I’ll never forget being the bud of several young girls’ joke as I struggled to get the can to my should, let alone my head, and splashed water all over me.

My current role at Nuru involves a keen understanding of determinants of health behaviors. Having had the opportunity to really understand some of them first hand makes a world of difference. We can’t just preach, “wash your hands” without considering in the many factors that are involved- many of which I never had to reflect on at home.

The challenges we faced also helped me to build important skills related to teamwork, community collaboration, communication, problem solving, commodity procurement, and participatory training. I look forward to further development in these areas as I continue to build my career in pubic health.